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A parent's guide to subject selection

Up until now, your child’s schooling life has been moulding them, helping them to test the waters of different study areas in a low-pressure environment, and ultimately preparing them for the pinnacle of their high school studies to date: Year 11 and 12 subject selection.

The subjects your child selects in Year 10 for their remaining senior school years will direct their path towards whatever field of work they pursue beyond graduation. Although there's no wrong decision, it's an important choice when grappling with prerequisites, points and more. 

Subject selection can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking time – and there's no doubt your child will certainly feel the weight of their decisions. So, to take the pressure off a little, we’ve pulled together our top tips for guiding your child so they can make the best possible decisions for them! Plus, read all the way to the end to discover a go-to glossary for all of those (slightly confusing!) terms related to subject selection. 

Let's explore... 

Start at the end

Right off the bat, talk to them about their end goal. Do they want to jump straight into work or do they want to study? Ask them questions like “what do you want to do beyond year 12?”, “what are your passions and aspirations?”, “where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years’ time?” and so on.

Once they have identified what they want to do, this will direct their subject choices. For example, to study at university they’ll need to select ATAR subjects. If they are unsure, we recommend selecting ATAR subjects, as this will provide your child with the flexibility to change their mind, and they'll open the door to university study if that's where their interests lie. 

Highlight interests and abilities

When your child is stuck in the day-to-day at school, they may find it hard to identify their interests and abilities. That’s where your role is essential! Help to highlight their strengths, and to draw out their interests and what they’re passionate about. If they know what they’re interested in doing beyond graduation, this will help them to select the subjects that will move them towards their destination. It’s also worth noting that by selecting subjects they’re interested in, they’ll be more likely to work hard and perform better, increasing their chance to achieve a higher ATAR – wins all 'round! 

Identify the non-negotiables

What your child wants to pursue beyond high school is likely to influence the types of subject they'll need to select, especially if they have ambitions that are niche or require some assumed knowledge from high school. For instance, if your child wants to study medicine after high school, chances are they’ll need to select a certain level of maths and/or science in order to meet the prerequisite and assumed knowledge eligibility criteria when applying for a university program.

So, while they might not love maths, if medicine is their end goal then this would be considered a non-negotiable subject that they’ll need to add to their selection list. It can present a tough choice for many students, especially if they're required to push through a subject they don't like to unlock the next step towards their dreams, but it all works out to be worth it, and it's likely they'll be willing to work hard to achieve that big goal. 

When in doubt, just reach out

If your teen is at a crossroads, or you both want a second opinion, the natural next step is to reach out! Your school’s career advisor or guidance counsellor is there to help assist and guide your child throughout their decision-making process, and to provide them with the relevant information to make an informed decision. University and college Future Students teams are also available to provide advice on the entry and program eligibility requirements. These contact points can help guide your teen through the process of selecting subjects that will help them put their best foot forward on the road to achieving their dreams! 

With these tips in mind, you'll be able to go into the next phase of their studies – the subject selection process – with the utmost confidence, and you'll also empower them to do the same. Before you go, we're demystifying the whole process with a quick snapshot of some of the terms you might encounter throughout this process. 


Assumed knowledge: High school-level knowledge they may need to reasonably undertake a subject in university, such as calculus skills for a mathematics degree, or an understanding of chemistry and biology to try their hand at biomedical science. You'll see assumed knowledge represented by university 'prerequisites'. 

ATAR: The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) is a number between 0.00 (low) and 99.95 (high) that ranks a student amongst all other qualifying students in the state, and essentially scores their academic prowess. University courses each have ATAR specifications, with some courses such as medicine requiring a highly competitive score. ATARs are relative to each university, so the entry requirements for a degree at one university mightn't necessarily be the same at another. Your child's ATAR is calculated from a combination of exam and assessment performance throughout Year 12. 

ATAR subject: ATAR subjects or courses are those subjects in school that contribute to your overall ATAR score. Depending on where your child goes to school, you might find that most of their available courses are ATAR eligible. If you're not sure, your child's class teacher or career advisor/guidance counsellor will be able to help! 

Prerequisite: A prerequisite is a subject your child must have undertaken in order to qualify for their chosen course. Not all subjects have prerequisites, however the majority do require completion of Year 12 English. Other courses, such as medicine, science and engineering degrees, may stipulate your child needs to have passed physics, chemistry, biology or maths. These are outlined on a university's program page for your easy reference. If your child hasn't completed the necessary prerequisites to qualify for their course, they may be able to undertake a bridging course or similar to become eligible. 

Contact us

Our Office of Future Students team is here to help you with any questions you may have about admissions, entry requirements and more. We'd love to hear from you.

Get in touch

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